Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
The Five Stops on Your Customer’s Journey
In the course of planning and developing a direct-to-consumer (D2C) strategy, it can be easy to lose sight of how the technical components fit into the broader strategic picture. So let’s zoom out for a moment and return the focus on customers—the people who are (or will be) buying your books.
The “sales journey” is the series of steps a customer goes through on the way to making a purchase. The idea is that a business should have marketing programs at each step of that journey. It looks something like this:
No individual publisher needs the full cylinder shown above—that would simply be too much for most companies to implement, regardless of size. But there are definite differences between industries and even businesses. Take anticipation for example. Anticipation is the time between purchase and consumption. Some industries typically have very long anticipation stages while others’ are incredibly short or have none at all.
Cruise lines, for instance, have very long anticipation phases. When someone buys a cruise ticket, there could be six to twelve months before they actually get on board the ship and start consuming their purchase. Cruise lines have become great at marketing to their consumers during this period and extracting a lot of extra money from their customers after their initial purchase but before the cruise starts. The fast-food industry, on the other hand, has a very short period of time between purchase and consumption—the few seconds it takes a customer to walk to a table with a tray in their hands or to drive from the order to the delivery window.
The customer journeys in both in these industries are so different, and their marketing programs reflect that difference. There are even variations within industries; luxury cruise lines account for different journeys than those of budget or gambling cruises, for instance.
For publishers focusing on a D2C program, the customer’s sales journey would probably include these steps:
Awareness/Consideration → Engagement → Conversion → Consumption → Leverage/Loyalty/Advocacy
Keep in mind that it’s not necessarily a straight line through the phases, though; your customers will jump around a little bit, skipping phases or returning to ones they were previously on. Even so, the idea is to have marketing programs at each stage of the cycle to drive the customer to the next stage or back to the beginning to sell them something new.
Let’s take a quick look at each.
- Awareness/Consideration: This stage is where the vast majority of marketing programs (and spend) occurs across almost all industries and businesses. (In some of the strategy work Biztegra has done for clients, we have encountered 99%+ spend for awareness.) This is what in publishing we call “discoverability” programs, involving everything designed to get the word out about your books before, during and after they publish.
- Engagement: This could actually occur before or after purchase—it’s the programs publishers use to further engage readers. Usually it’s authors who have the best platforms for driving engagement. Take a look at authors like Neil Gaiman, Hugh Howey, Guy Kawasaki or some of the authors listed here. Most publishers, on the other hand, don’t have great engagement programs. One thing publishers can do to improve their efforts at this stage is to provide a mechanism to gather their authors’ platforms around a hub and then amplify them back out to their customers.
- Conversion: This is the point in the process where the purchase occurs. Some organizations have great conversion marketing programs, extracting a larger basket/purchase from the customer. Few publishers do (I haven’t seen one, to be honest), but if you would like to see examples from other industries, go buy some business cards from Vistaprint or a domain from GoDaddy.
- Consumption: I have yet to see any publisher successfully implement a program during consumption. A great example for this is the services car manufacturers sell you after you’ve purchased your vehicle. General Motors, for example, makes over $1 billion from OnStar. For publishers, this has been a tough one to crack, but someone will figure this out. There is an opportunity here, considering how many hours it takes for one of your books to be read—there is a great program out there waiting to drive revenue. I’m almost willing to put subscription models in this category. For the time being, the publishers are mostly leaving this to others to reap the benefits of such programs.
- Leverage/Loyalty/Advocacy: Other industries have implemented various forms of this stage, in many cases very successfully. Leverage is where publishers have provided tools enabling readers to tell others about their experiences with your books. Loyalty is having programs that capture your customers and give them an ongoing reason to come back to you for their next purchase. Advocacy is where you create readers who are actively out there recruiting new readers for you, which means giving those advocates the tools to help them do so. There are many ways to approach this stage at various levels of effort on the publishers’ part. Few publishers, again, have implemented anything that is driving real revenue.
Publishers whose marketing programs and budgets are all focused on Awareness/Consideration are missing out on potential revenue. A little bit of research, planning and ongoing focus on the other four stages can reap tremendous benefits for your business.
Let me know in the comments what programs you have implemented outside of Awareness/Consideration and how successful they have been.